Have you been keeping up with the whole righ-to-repair struggle? I’m guessing if you’re here on this site, reading this now, you likely have, because it’s been going on for years and it’s very important, especially to gearheads. I’ve been writing about this struggle since at least 2015, and it’s important because the struggle is about the fundamental right to repair or modify machines you own — machines like your own car, or as has been the case for one of the most visible examples of this struggle, farm equipment. John Deere, the huge maker of agricultural implements/machinery and the leading cause behind the longtime popularity of yellow and bright green in rural mens’ fashion, has been one of the companies most determinedly against letting farmers repair the machines they own. But now it looks like farmers who want to repair their own machines or have them repaired by independent technicians have scored a huge victory, because American Farm Bureau Federation and Deere & Co. have signed an important Memorandum of Understanding that will ensure farmers have the right to decide how they want to repair the equipment they own.
Since 2016, Deer & Co. has required that repairs to their equipment, which can be quite sophisticated and sensor-laden, only be undertaken by authorized John Deere technicians at dealerships or authorized repair centers. Software lockouts and special codes prevent independent or owner repairs from happening, with Deere usually claiming that these lockouts were necessary for security reasons and to protect their proprietary software, even though I bet there’s no way a farmer could extract any sort of usable source code out of the computers embedded in the equipment. (All the code is already compiled and integrated, it just doesn’t work like that).
The result of these sorts of restrictive policies can be devastating to farmers, as repairs of their crucial and expensive equipment – which they paid for – can be difficult and costly. Not all farmers are near authorized facilities, and even though many are technically capable of carrying out a wide variety of common fixes on their own, they can’t and are effectively held hostage by the large equipment company.
This Memorandum of Understanding should help solve this problem for the farmers. Here’s what the stated purpose of the memorandum is, as written right in it:
The purpose of this MOU is, through a voluntary private sector commitment to outcomes rather than legislative or regulatory measures, to:
1. continue to enhance the ability of Farmers to timely control the lawful operation and upkeep of Agricultural Equipment;
2. assure the timely availability, on Fair and Reasonable terms, of Tools, Specialty Tools, Software and Documentation originating from Manufacturer, and Data from the operation of Agricultural Equipment originating from Manufacturer;
3. assure that no safety controls or protocols on Agricultural Equipment are compromised through the modification of protective measures installed for the benefit of Agricultural Equipment owners, operators and bystanders;
4. assure that the intellectual property of Manufacturer, including copyrighted software, is fully protected from illegal infringement through the modification of Embedded Software; and
5. assure that compliance with federal and state emissions control requirements is not compromised through changes to power ratings or other modification of control measures installed for the purpose of complying with the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and regulations.
This agreement provides protection for the manufacturer’s intellectual property while allowing the owners to work on their own hardware, and that includes getting access to any required specialized tools or documentation or whatever is needed from the manufacturer.
It’s worth noting that this is not a legal document, in the legislative sense. It’s a voluntary agreement between Deer & Co. and the American Farm Bureau Federation, so it’s not like it can currently be enforced via regulatory means. Still, it’s significant that this voluntary agreement happened at all, and one could argue that the parties coming to a mutual agreement is more likely to be respected on both sides than if one side or the other was forced into something under the threat of the law. At least I hope that’s the case.
With Deere & Co. being so visible and prominent during this whole long struggle, the fact that it’s voluntarily agreeing to this says a lot about how effective the movement to preserve owners’ right to repair has been. Hopefully the automotive industry will follow suit, as it could be in their best interest, too, since there have been many pushes to get car owner’s right to repair protected by law as well. This has even been directly addressed in speeches from president Joe Biden as recently as last January (bold emphasis mine):
In six months since I issued the order, we’ve met every deadline that my — my order calls for so far. And here are just three examples. “The right to repair” — sounds kind of silly saying it that way, but it’s — but we call it “the right to repair” — is literal.
Too many areas, if you don’t own a product — excuse me, if you own a product, from a smartphone to a tractor, you don’t have the freedom to choose how or where to repair that item you purchased.
It’s broke. “Well, what do I do about it?” If it’s broke, you had to go to the dealer and you had to pay the dealer’s cost — the dealer’s price.
If you tried to get it fixed — if you tried to fix it yourself, some manufacturers actually would void the warranty when they sold the ve- — sold the product to you or disable the features on that product they sold you.
Denying the right to repair raises prices for consumers, means independent repair shops can’t compete for your business. And my expe- — my executive order announced that support for the right to repair, rather — right after I issued my order, I was pleased to see the Federal Trade Commission unanimously announce that it would ramp up — unanimously announced it would ramp up enforcement against illegal repair restrictions.
That was followed by major companies to — or by voluntarily agreeing to change their restrictions on repairs.
The right to repair is a big deal, and for those of us that are interested in really owning our cars, instead of just being permitted by a company to use them when and how they see fit, right to repair, modify, and even break, on our own terms, is important. This voluntary memorandum is a big step in the right direction, and I hope this trend continues.
I long to be able to reset the regen system without a $200+ service call when the riding idiot boogers it up (despite near-daily reminders on function) and the tractor alarm blares. Will this agreement enable me to acquire the code /tool to do so?
Having a family farm, it is critically important to be able to work on your equipment when it breaks down without having to wait for a repair technician to show up. If I am pulling fence posts and have to replace a broken hydraulic line, I would rather be able to go to the shop and have a new one made in a day or so versus having to wait a month for a new one to come from Japan and then have the technician come out to unlock the equipment so that I can then install the line and they have to re-lock it.
Farm machinery is very dangerous if you don’t respect it every time, every day and watch it every minute, since it will allow you to do something stupid very easily. I pay attention to the equipment, not my phone or anything else.
Jumping off my short soap box.
As the youngest of seven siblings I know exactly what this is. A cop out agreement with very little future meaning because someone knows they are in the wrong, they just don’t anyone telling Mom or Dad about it.
Okay, I’ve had to explain this several times already, so all of y’all SIT THE FUCK DOWN, SHUT THE FUCK UP, AND LISTEN TO AN EXPERT.
Oh, you don’t think I’m an expert because I don’t work on farm machinery? Motherfucker, I’m on “fair and reasonable terms” with FCAtlantis, ACDelco, Rotunda, and AE Tools. I have to buy that shit out of pocket. So you better believe I know the game better than you.
Also because you can’t afford to be in the game. We’ll get to THAT part in a second.
First of all, this ‘agreement’ is an attempt to get out from under Magnuson-Moss claims (which Deere would absolutely lose, but which nobody can afford to bring) while also retaining their ability to abuse DMCA. Which has been one of their primary sledgehammers. Fixed an electrical problem on a Deere? You ‘circumvented access-control’ and ‘circumvented copy protection’ which can be criminally prosecuted. According to Deere, so much as hooking up to their diag port is a violation of access control. (They aren’t OBD-II covered. That’s the only reason you can hook up to your car at all.)
“assure the timely availability, on Fair and Reasonable terms, of Tools, Specialty Tools, Software and Documentation originating from Manufacturer, and Data from the operation of Agricultural Equipment originating from Manufacturer;”
Let me explain this part to you, because I guarantee the lot of you have no fucking idea what this means or costs. Beau doesn’t have any clue because he most definitely doesn’t look at these numbers in detail and gets heavy discounts from Rotunda plus a 70 year dealership franchise. Rotunda only charges him token fees.
As I said: I’m on “fair and reasonable terms” for “tools, specialty tools, software and documentation originating from manufacturer.” You want me to put a specific number on that?
ACDelco is $6,500 per year NOT including medium duty, Freightliner, OR any SPS2 (required to reflash – those are $45 or $90 per VIN.) In order to use this $6,550 per year subscription?
You will need to spend more than $2,000 on a compatible laptop, at least $1,500 for two MDI2’s as you MUST use authorized ones or $500 each for knockoffs and $2,800 for a J2543 programmer, and we haven’t even discussed access to MEMCAL or BIN. In addition to all of this? ACDelco will not sell you certain subscriptions without a business license, state mechanic’s license, proof you employ an ASE Master or GM WCT, and proof of sufficient liability insurance.
And that’s just to legally access repair documentation, diagnostic tools, and the ability to legally flash a GM vehicle. It’s why they have the 3-day access options. Indys cannot afford what amounts to a $12k+ outlay for a single manufacturer that doesn’t even cover half their needs.
Or how about FCAtlantis? I’m bound by agreements so I can’t give 100% numbers there. (Oh yeah, there’s contracts and lawyers. Lots of ’em.) What I can tell you is that obtaining a legal and legitimate StarSCAN tool and license – since WiTech doesn’t work on anywhere near half their OBD-II fleet – doesn’t happen outside of a dealer without asking a lot of people, repeatedly, very nicely. You’ll find these for sale with a few minutes of Googling for $1500-3000. None of those are legal. You can’t sell a StarSCAN because it’s a Right To Use license. If you aren’t paying FCAtlantis an annual fee, you have no right to use and you never had the right to sell. (DRB-III’s for the curious, are first-sale doctrine.)
Now you fucking tell me what shop that isn’t already an authorized Deere shop that can afford what will most assuredly be at minimum double those prices because it’s “specialty commercial equipment.” (See also: ACDelco GM GDS2; buy light-duty plus GDS2 on top of it.) This is “we’ll totally sell you the tools to work on it. Since your business depends on it, 5% of gross revenue sounds fine.”
“assure that no safety controls or protocols on Agricultural Equipment are compromised through the modification of protective measures installed for the benefit of Agricultural Equipment owners, operators and bystanders;”
ACTUAL translation, because some asshole will equate this to emissions, which, nope! Emissions are LAW. GM letting you tamper can get them fined. GPS updates? Those are not. So what will Deere do?
Same as the big three have done. Oh, you want an infotainment update for your 2015 model year car? Buy a new car. Oh, you want a map update for it? Well that takes us a whole lot more work since we stopped making those and you have the old infotainment software, so that’ll be $1000 because the dealer has to install it.
And say your tractor decides that instead of a 45MPH road it’s a 25MPH and locks the governor. Or the county paves a new road and it decides you’re offroad and locks it at 15MPH. Yeah, because Deere hasn’t shown a brazen and blatant pattern of abuse there. Uh-huh.
“assure that the intellectual property of Manufacturer, including copyrighted software, is fully protected from illegal infringement through the modification of Embedded Software; and”
Translation: hey know how your tractor has wifi and satellite and an IP address and runs on one of the most horrifically insecure Linux installs we’ve seen in years with hardcoded usernames and passwords everywhere?
Now you don’t know that or we come after you with both barrels and a wheat thresher for the corpse. No, seriously, you’re not even allowed to think it. Because that’s ‘illegal infringement.’ Even though we’re violating the shit out of GPL.
Because ransomware totally isn’t going to target food supplies ever. Just like it never targets hospitals.
“assure that compliance with federal and state emissions control requirements is not compromised through changes to power ratings or other modification of control measures installed for the purpose of complying with the Clean Air Act and other environmental laws and regulations.”
And this is the only actual legitimate and correct thing they’ve said all day. Louder for the people in the back: EMISSIONS MODIFICATIONS ARE NOT LEGAL ON ANYTHING PERIOD. If you can’t fucking recite from memory every touchpoint year in regulating and reducing vehicle emissions, then you can’t do it legally. And on anything modern? You can’t, period.
There is a specified process and procedure. You do not have the budget for it. If it says ‘off-road use only wink-wink-nudge-nudge’ then it’s illegal on anything with plates, period.
And if Deere says “well sure you can upgrade your 230HP tune to a 260HP tune”? They can be fined. A LOT. Because they are now wildly out of compliance with CAA and reporting requirements. CAFE isn’t the only set of rules, and they have to report how many 230HP, 260HP, 300HP, and so on engines they sell in what models. Which allows their net emissions to be calculated, and then awards granted or penalties assessed as appropriate. If they exceed their CAA annual cap, they have to use or buy credits. If they enable customers to post-facto violate their cap? Penalties are steep enough that no company has ever dared test it.
So the TL;DR?
1. “Fuck you pay us.”
2. “lol that’s not enough, you’re gonna need to pony up more than it would cost to have the dealer do it. For each repair.”
3. “we’re gonna make things way more unsafe and insecure by threatening you at gunpoint if you expose how unsafe and insecure we’ve made them.”
4. “… but the EPA makes all of us shit our pants even under the most environmentally hostile regimes so we’ll be taking a pass on that revenue stream thanks.”
It’s just a big pile of shit to forestall the real regulations that are still desperately needed across the board; not just Deere, all the U-code shit and non-covered OBD-II, trucks, everything.
I’m not sure this is good news for all of us. I suspect the unstated but intended consequences of this were to neuter growing calls for legislation demanding a right to repair. One of the big lobbies in favor of such a thing has just been taken out of play. And without the AFBF lobbying their congressmen a national change just became much harder to achieve. And, in the process, they get to control the terms & conditions of that right to repair, instead of having to negotiate them with legislators. I think it’s a limited win for farmers, but a setback to those hoping for national change. And I suspect we’ll see a few more such “agreements” or “policies” come from a few other large manufacturers – so they too can limit the possible impact of Right to Repair legislation while managing the terms they agree to operate under.
Well said and gets more to the real source of the issue. Major companies (mine included) do this all the time to try and stop something from becoming legislation. Much easier to deal iwth when it’s not regulation,
It’s hardly a major win, given that AFBF pretty much agreed to abandon their support for actual Right to Repair legislation (III.A): “AFBF agrees to encourage state Farm Bureau organizations to recognize the commitments made in this MOU and refrain from introducing, promoting, or supporting federal or state “Right to Repair” legislation that imposes obligations beyond the commitments in this MOU.”
The fact that this is even a conversation or a debate is ridiculous. I farm, and let me tell you, when it’s time to harvest, it’s time to HARVEST. Not tomorrow, not a month from now…right freaking NOW. I’ve avoided this issue by using pre-computer tractors and implements, but even still there’s no excuse for manufacturers preventing farmers from fixing stuff in the field.
Been following this for years and Cam.man67 nails it. When you need it you NEED it. This just does nothing but put up smoke screens of civility that mean nothing in the real world for the people who use their equipment.
Beauty, after ECMs were bypassed with copper wire, which negated safety and emmissions controls, but allowed the machine to work, JD thought it best to share some data. Way to go Farmers.
“This agreement provides protection for the manufacturer’s intellectual property”
No it doesn’t.
The manufacturer’s intellectual property protection was never in doubt. The only thing going on here is a manufacturer attempting to use their government granted privileges under copyright law to gain additional rights beyond what was initially intended, and beyond what anybody who isn’t profiting from copyright corruption would deem reasonable.
Every media outlet needs to call manufacturers on this bullshit every single time. They don’t bitch about their IP rights when they willing ship their designs off to other countries to be built in sub-standard conditions by undercompensated workers. But they’ll cry foul when people want to invoke the functionality of copies they purchased.
This is not about protecting intellectual property. It’s about protecting an artificially imposed system by which the manufacturer can be assured recurring revenue without providing additional value. It’s not what copyright is for, and it shouldn’t be allowed to be used that way. Anti-circumvention clauses should not apply unless the circumvention is for the distribution of unauthorized copies. And any company that tries to use anti-circumvention laws to prevent use other than the distribution of unauthorized copies should lose their copyrights.
And yes, I specifically mean both copying AND distribution.
It’s Farmer’s Union and the PIRGs that deserve the credit for fighting for Right to Repair. With this agreement Farm Bureau as the lobbyists for Big Ag have sold out real farmers and they’re defending Deere from real Right to Repair!
This is a big issue for farm equipment as it tends to be used in the same areas at the same time. So if you need a tech they are all busy at seeding or harvest time. Think of getting an RV tech in late June when everybody finds out that their slide outs dont’ work. Some issues are that you can bolt in a new piece but until you have the correct and authorized software the tractor will not recognize that part. Hopefully this goes some way to fixing that but I suspect that a lot of parts will fall under some category of safety and they will insist that only a dealer can help
I know someone who is an engineer in the industry. He’s very worried about farmers overriding certain safety elements and getting killed in accidents. Things like a certain tractor having a horsepower limit on the motor due to the safety limits on the hydraulic system. A farmer could not remove that horsepower limit, which would then allow them to lift weight in excess of the capacity of the hydraulic system. Then the hydraulic system fails and the load crushes someone.
While I can agree with the general concern regarding safety-related items within the coding itself, that is such a distant and farfetched justification for not allowing independent shops or farmers from doing some basic repairs that have nothing to do with changing coding and more to do with being able to make repairs without a JD tech. JD basically set there systems up in a way that if you get an error code for a part you could order and replace yourself, you couldn’t clear said code without a JD tech, which sometimes would be a week plus from being able to service. It made all money associated with repairs funnel back to JD for repairs that don’t even require accessing code but just ability to clear faults.
This is 15+ years in the making that JD has held an iron grip on making repairs to equipment you own and I applaud this step on the right direction to correct.
We shouldn’t be allowed to put turbos on cars that didn’t come with them. It’s ridiculous! Pistons can go straight through the block. Won’t somebody think of the pedestrians?
My kid got a “take apart John Deere tractor” for Christmas. Little impact driver and everything.
I told my FIL they were being hypocrites and deceiving dozens, maybe even scores of children into thinking they could repair a Deere in the future.
Now we just need more states to pass “right to repair” laws a la Massachusetts.
Just like a piece of recalcitrant equipment, JD or otherwise, threatening to work on it makes it work. 😉
“If you have an authorization code; patented, proprietary tools; and Top Secret repair documents – nothing runs like a Deere.” Catchy slogan, no?
Looks like this one Deere caught in the headlights of future legislation.
I will not buy an Apple product because of their anti-consumerism. I can’t say anything about John Deere because I am not a farmer but when it gets that bad I have some big issues with supporting a company like that.
I think this is great but realistically means nothing. I’m not going to read the whole agreement but from what’s on this page I’m guessing even if it was legislative it could be interpreted in many ways. I can only hope I’m wrong.
I prefer to sidestep the whole issue by owning decades-old vehicles from marques which either are deeply dormant or simply no longer exist. At this point I think I can safely ignore any threatening letters from Saab AB or the Austin Rover Group.
Re; the digital code IP of the Studebaker-Packard Corporation…
Ah yes. I do the same thing. I have a John Deere tractor, but it is 71 years old. Even so, I went to buy a clutch part from the dealership and was quoted $700 and a 6 week lead time. Steiner Tractor parts got me the same part for $40 in about 1 week.
I don’t know enough about farm equipment to really know JDs apprehension but I’m guessing it’s similar to the printing equipment I work on for my job. The manufacturer has certain processes and information they will not allow us access to which is fine because they are more than happy to help in the areas that aren’t proprietary.
This is how it should be approached in the automotive world too, I don’t expect Ford to tell me how they programmed my motor but I should have the ability to work on the physical components of it including the ability to reset any settings or codes related to them.
Their apprehension is that they’re afraid repair money that could go into their own pockets might potentially go into someone else’s instead.
I love it when an obvious lie finally falls. I hope it is a trend that continues.
Living in a rural area I see A LOT of JD rolling around .. the closest JD place is 50 miles away….. I’ve seen combines in the middle of a good stay there for months before they could get them to come out and fix them..
See, its this damn line here:
The purpose of this MOU is, through a voluntary private sector commitment to outcomes rather than legislative or regulatory measures, to:
When has private industry, as a whole, ever done something voluntary that benefits the consumer? How many times have they tried to hide something heinous behind the line of “we understand, let us help you.”
FFS, we’d still be eating diseased meat if not for Sinclair’s book.
Well those italics got out of hand. I’m sure I put the right tag in.
Even your thumbs up count is italicized, somehow…
If you were really good, the whole rest of the page would have been italicized.
“And that, class, is how a minor bug in a commenting platform resulted in loss of all non-italicized fonts. At first, the italics spread slowly from Mr Asa’s initial post, catching the approval count, then more and more nearby comments. Soon, the whole website was irretrievably lost to the italics. And then ever faster, it spread through adjacent servers and across datacenter hardlines until eventually even physical labels and signs somehow changed to italic”.
I would make this comment in italics for added realism, but I fear it has already spread too far.
Ooo!!! Thats a genuine bug! Dev team is gonna love me!
This is exactly why John Deere doesn’t allow independent repairs. Would you want to eat italic potatoes harvested by an italic tractor?
Pleasepleaseplease tell me the tags that work on this site. Or better for you (and probably me as well) tell me where i can learn myself?
I believe it’s basic HTML tags for things like bold and italic. I assume there’s a very limited set that you’re allowed to use though.
There are only two reasons they’re doing this, and they’re coupled together: They want to do this before they’re made to do it, which was inevitable. They also want to seem benevolent by “granting” their users this right, and doing it before they’re forced to has the facade of “voluntary” and “we care about our customers.” Had the looming threat of legislation not been on the horizon, this never would have happened.
There’s a third reason, closely linked to the others: it keeps them in control of the terms. They’ve granted a right to repair that is limited to the scope they are okay with, and that they could potentially revoke if it suits them.
They are getting ahead of this with the hope to control the complete narrative. This story sounds like they are hero’s.
And their preferred outcome, which is they agree to provide some support in loose unenforceable terms to preempt any effort legislation, drag their feet and do very little of substance (claiming it’s hard and takes time to do it properly, etc) then once legislative efforts run out of steam since the industry has already ‘solved’ it, they conveniently forget the whole thing.
To paraphrase Nathan Hale: I only regret that I have but one like to give this article.
Drew: “I suspect that John Deere is hoping to prevent this by voluntarily agreeing”
Ding! Ding! Ding!
I probably didn’t need the “I suspect that,” but I don’t like to comment on things with too much certainty.
While we still need legislation to enshrine this right (and I suspect that John Deere is hoping to prevent this by voluntarily agreeing), it is good to see a big player make concessions here.
Yep, codify it for all manufacturers, or this is just whac-a-mole as each one rehashes and repositions the minutiae of the memoranda. They’re betting the pressure will let off before they have to really do much but nod and smile. Without legislation, they’re right.